Photographed by Joelle Beauchamp of Kailyn Walsh and Sophie Dehn
Styled by Jack Turpen and Joelle Beauchamp
By Sophie Dehn
Queens have historically been inspected and worshiped for their attire. From Isabeau of Bavaria's enormous skirts that required entrances to be expanded, to Kate Middleton's on-point appreciation of high-street fashion, commoners have long been attracted by royal trends. However, no other monarch sparked as much of a fashion revolution as Marie Antoinette. The patterns that Marie Antoinette established are still imitated by leading fashion designers today, from her over-the-top pastel gowns festooned with ribbons and bows to her basic muslin garments that drew both praise and derision.
Marie Antoinette relished the amusement of being a member of the French Royal Family, as well as the creative freedom it afforded her. Her love of clothing, decorating, and interior design, combined with a seemingly infinite budget, enabled her to produce masterpieces that continue to inspire and leave a lasting impact in the histories of fashion and interior design.
While the period's style in France is often referred to as Louis XVI style, which draws inspiration from the Neoclassicism sweeping over Europe, Queen Marie Antoinette provided much of the creative inspiration, rather than her husband. One of Marie Antoinette's most notable achievements as Queen was her highly cultivated taste for fashion and home design. However, Queen Marie Antoinette is perhaps best known for something that almost certainly never happened.
"Let them eat cake," she is said to have stated in reaction to hearing about the bread scarcity, which had caused rioting across France. While it has been confirmed that she did not say this, the term aptly sums up the monarchy's attitude and ignorance toward the population, many of whom were fighting to feed themselves during a period of extreme economic distress. Marie Antoinette's vast love for luxury and excess may be as significant for contributing to the French Revolution as it is for its ingenuity and beauty, as well as the legacy it leaves.
Antoinette is widely regarded as the first consumer of 'haute couture' fashion designed and produced to measure for her by her 'Minister of Fashion' Rose Bertin. Bertin became the first recognized 'fashion designer' thanks to her skills and her spendthrift Royal patron, and her creations inspired a nation. Marie Antoinette's fashion achievements included extravagant gowns for court occasions. She was the first young and trendy Queen in three generations to capture the people with her next voluminous, lavishly embellished design.
Marie Antoinette and Rose Bertin raised fashion and clothing from a trade to an art form for the first time in history. While we no longer try to dress like Marie Antoinette on a daily basis, the concept of 'celebrity style,' influencing and being emulated by society at large, remains as powerful as ever.